“Everyone knows everything and they know nothing. Do you know that?”
When I recently asked him how his role was changing, he nodded at the device in my hand: “Everyone just picks up the phone.”
He didn’t mean it wistfully or dystopian – just an observation that technology doesn’t always come with intuition or experience. A phone won’t sort your luggage or tip that hidden gem around the corner. It books a restaurant but can’t put in a good word for a better table.
Those are “those extra little touches the internet can’t do for you,” added the Burlo’s head concierge, Paul Fitzsimons.
Every day technology seems to embed itself deeper into our lives and I am fascinated by what this means for roles in hospitality. With our devices we can book, research and talk about our trips. I would be (literally) lost without my phone. But something else is also lost.
Have you ever been directed to the L streets of Wicklow by Google Maps? Or did you want to beat a “customer service” bot? Or have you been let down by an Instagram beach in real life?
A generation ago, the “gringo trail” was a term for the sights and bars frequented by travelers who depended on it Lonely Planets and rough instructions. Today, a “Google trail” leads us to the same search results or map pins. It can feel like a closed loop; Algorithmic adventure.
We reflexively reach for our phones for good reasons. But the phone reflex can also mean we miss what’s in front of our eyes.
I was reminded of this last week at Milan Central Station as I competed with thousands of players to catch the same train. Everyone knew the train they wanted, but not the platform. We scrolled like crazy. We knew everything and we knew nothing.
Then I spotted an off-duty railroad worker and asked her advice. She told me the train usually departs from platform six. I stood nearby and when the departure board confirmed it, I made the train.
Last winter in Dingle, an inn owner not only tipped me at a great bar, he took me into town. This type of offline interaction is like a friend tipping them a good book or Netflix series. It’s a simple gesture, but a sophisticated blend of surprise, judgment, knowledge, and joy.
Luxury travel services invest heavily in “guest relations”; for some smaller companies, it’s just what they do.
Technology can definitely enrich our travels. Apps and maps are great tools. Robot waiters and tablet check-in can make sense in a world of staff shortages and inflation. But it’s “the little extras” that make a trip a memory, a fleeting encounter a lasting feeling. In a world of travel disruptions, it’s that real, reassuring voice at the end of the line. And that’s where Ireland can be great.
Balancing the two is key. Because what is hospitality if not the art of feeling good?
And I have yet to meet the bot that makes me feel this way.
https://www.independent.ie/life/travel/tech-can-enrich-our-travel-but-its-the-human-touch-that-turns-a-trip-into-a-memory-41990431.html Tech can enrich our journeys, but it’s the human touch that makes a journey a memory